How to choose the most energy efficient electric heater for your home

Clara V.
Clara V.Published on 2 Aug 2021

There’s nothing quite like a warm heater to curl up next to when you’re trying to beat the winter blues, which is why finding an energy efficient heater for your room or home is so important when the cold hits.

We’ve put together some tips on how to find the right heater that can easily (and affordably) improve:

  • the heating efficiency of your home,
  • your household’s comfort in cold weather, and
  • your energy bills.

A woman's hand's held up to a white panel heater.

What's the most energy efficient electric heater?

Electric heaters are usually less efficient than other types of heating, such gas and wood heaters. However, you’ll still find that some electric heaters are far more efficient than others.

Reverse cycle split system air conditioners (also called heat pumps) are the most energy efficient electric heaters you can find, and in some cases can even be more economical to run than gas heaters - they’re also way more eco-friendly than other electric heaters.

While electric heaters are generally more pricey to run, they’re cheap to buy and can often produce a lot of heat, so it’s understandable why they’re such an attractive heating option for so many Australian households.

To enhance the effectiveness of an electric heater, insulate your home and stop draughts to help ensure that heat isn’t wasted. With that being said, sometimes you just have to work with the space you have, and so finding an electric heater that actually warms you up can be one of the most important decisions you make when heating your home.

Tips to keep in mind when looking for efficiency

1. Measure your space to find the heater power you need

Finding the right heater for your home starts with measuring the size of the room or rooms you want to warm up. To do this, multiply the length of the room by its width.

Generally speaking, you’ll need about 10 watts per square foot to increase the temperature of an insulated room by 5 to 10°C. Below is a rough guide to help you determine the heater wattage you need for the size of your space.

Room sizeRequired heater wattage
5 to 20m²1000W to 1500W
20 to 30m²2000 to 2500W
Over 30m²2500W and over

Keep in mind that if you live in an area that gets particularly cold, you may need a bit more wattage than the estimates listed above, and if you live in a warmer climate, you could probably get away with less.

Just because two heaters have the same wattage, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll have the same heat output. For example, one 2500W room heater might not get as hot as another 2500W heater if it has a low-quality thermostat that prevents the heater from running at full power when it should be.

2. Consider portability

A portable heater may be important for those who prefer to heat up just a small area or room rather than their whole home. In this case, a heater that can move with you will be your best friend, to save you needing to buy multiple.

3. Look for energy-saving features

Certain energy-saving settings features can help ensure that you’re not using more energy than you need to.

An adjustable thermostat, for instance, is a feature that’s usually featured on more costly heaters that can save you in the long run. More heat settings also help you only use as much heat as you need, which will also bring down your energy bills.

Thermal cut-out is another useful feature that turns the heater off if it overheats, which not only reduces the risk of fire, but helps reduce energy consumption.

Read reviews to see if the features actually work.

Reviews can give you a good indication as to whether or not the advertised energy-saving features of a heater actually live up to claims. Reading about users’ experiences can help you decide whether a heater is actually efficient, can keep you warm, and keep costs down.

What are the most energy efficient electric heaters for large rooms?

A small portable electric heater may be able to heat up a small room for a short time, but it probably won’t be up to the task for bigger rooms. Electric heaters are most suited to small rooms, but there are a few tips to keep in mind when looking for a heater for a large room, such as a communal lounge area.

The best electric heaters for large rooms are usually electric convection or panel heaters. If they come with a fan that can help evenly distribute heat throughout your space, even better.

Convection and panel heaters can provide quick warmth and are great at heating up a whole room rather than just the area around a heater - they can also be wall-mounted. Because hot air rises, however, these heaters may not be as efficient in homes with high ceilings.

If you want heat to follow you wherever you go, then central heating is the most efficient at heating up your whole house.

Will a cheap electric heater heat up my home?

Cheaper heaters are often cheap because they don’t provide the features that more pricey models do, or because they’re expensive to run. That’s why if price is a main concern of yours, you should also consider energy efficiency when buying.

If you’re not itching for extra features - some of which, like an adjustable thermostat, can help save energy - and only want a heater for whipping out every now and then on particularly cold days, then you might not need more bells and whistles than those on a more basic model.

The 11-fin Kmart heater has an oil-assisted heating element and at just $55, has been noted by reviewers as being able to heat up smaller rooms without breaking the bank. These Kambrook heaters, starting at just $69.95, have also been praised by reviewers for emitting a gentle heat that warms up small homes.

Extra tips to help you save on energy bills

An efficient heater is one way to keep bills down, but there are some other things you can do in the winter to keep these costs even further down without sacrificing comfort - here are a few.

  • Set your heating thermostat to somewhere between 18 and 20°C - every degree above 20°C could add up to 10% to your heating costs.
  • If you have a reverse-direction ceiling fan, use it at a low speed while using your heater to circulate the warm air around your home.
  • Switch off your lights and electrical appliances when you’re not using them. Turning them off at the powerpoint can help you save more power than leaving them on standby.
  • Shut the doors to any rooms and areas you’re not using, and try to only heat rooms where you spend a lot of your time.
  • Switch to energy-efficient LED light bulbs, which use less power and are more longer-lasting.
  • Wait until you have a full laundry load before starting a cycle, and choose the shortest and coldest appropriate settings - you can also skip the clothes dryer and hang your clothes outside if you can.
  • Ensure your curtains or blinds properly seal your windows to prevent heat escaping.

You can read more about electric heaters and view the top-rated electric heaters to help you keep warm this winter here.